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    Tammy's Story

    Vibrant, beautiful smile, laughing yet bashful eyes, deep faith – words describe Tammy, a single mother of four who has benefited by a "hand up, not a hand out" from the Ray of Hope, here in Kalispell. 
    Tammy moved here in 1993 to work with Youth With a Mission, managing to journey to Asia with her best friend, Laura, then settling down to being a business entrepreneur, owing a cleaning service and then coffee shop while attending FVCC and continuing to raise her children. 
    Tammy grew up self-reliant, knowing that whatever life brought her way, she and Jesus could handle it – there were no mountains too high, and she now admits she had little understanding for people who 'let life get them down.' She had faced her share of hardship and always found a way out of it through her faith and friends, with hard work.  
    In 2006 the bottom dropped out for Tammy – in May,  the best friend who had journeyed with her to Asia, and "beaten" cancer, suddenly succumbed to an aggressive recurrence of that disease, leaving her bereft of a life-long friendship.  Though Tammy knew she would see Laura again in heaven, the resulting grief was unrelenting, feeling like she now had no one with whom to share the trials and joys of life and parenting.
    Then, in August, physical illness set in – ear infections that resulted in intense pain, loss of equilibrium, and therefore no way to maintain a job to support herself and her two youngest children.   As this illness abated,  Tammy decided to spend Christmas 2007 with one of her older daughters who lived in Boise, and traveled Highway 200  to see her.  Her car hit black ice outside Paradise, spinning and rolling out of control.  The children were safe, but Tammy suffered a concussion and pulled muscles around her torso as she was flung around the interior of the rolling van.  Another set-back, the concussion resulted in memory loss, headaches, and outbursts of anger, predictably leading to depression and its frequent companion, anxiety attacks.  This continued for 5-6 months as her mind and body healed from the wreck.
    As if to guarantee that Tammy remain off-balance, that spring another round of debilitating ear infections set in after the car wreck, again with loss of balance and coordination, slurred speech, and total exhaustion – "even my bones were tired, it was not like normal 'exhaustion.'  I would get the kids off to school, then go back to sleep."
    Tammy was no longer able to care for herself and her children, could not work unless it was at home, and therefore could not meet her rent, pay her bills, or buy food.  Her parents offered to take her in if she could move back to Oregon, but Tammy's home is Flathead Valley, and she was determined to stay.  
    Tammy's parents had known Peggy and Bob Christianson of Ray of Hope for years, and Peggy had been trying to contact Tammy when she learned about Tammy's troubles.  Tammy had never asked for help before, and was not going to start, but when Peggy learned of the snowballing events of Tammy's life and the resulting predicament, Peggy offered all she had – prayer,  encouragement, belief in Tammy's ability to weather these crises if she had some support, and half the money needed for the rent.  
    These things together were all Tammy needed – with Peggy's encouragement and support, she made her bills, found part time employment that was compassionate about her needs while she healed, and has emerged with a new understanding of how life can seem to conspire to pull one under.  Tammy is now an ardent supporter of Ray of Hope where she received that "hand up, not a hand-out."  
    Tammy's conclusions:  Life is hard, there are tough things that happen beyond our control, but we can choose to get something good out of anything - grow out of anything, become more compassionate.  The Ray of Hope fills such an important role in this Valley, providing a temporary home, support, encouragement, and bolstering the faith of people who find themselves overwhelmed by life's events that are beyond their control.  Telling others about Ray of Hope is the only way I can support Peggy right now, so I hope others will be able to contribute time, money, resources, food – all those things Peggy and Bob pass on to those who need them.